Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Reimagining the true life events of the infamous Donner Party, Alma Katsu brings mega atmosphere to this Historical Horror novel.

I must say, the atmosphere was my favorite part of this story. The circumstances the wagon train found themselves in were dangerous and you could feel that.

It was like watching a movie that is dark for a large portion of the time. It leaves you squinting, trying to figure out what is coming next.

After a series of unfortunate events, rations become depleted, the weather is getting progressively worse and tempers flare.

Looking for someone to blame, whispers begin to circulate that a witch may be among them.

Tamsen Donner is used to being blamed and misunderstood. It certainly doesn’t stop her from going about her business; she’s a pro at ignoring others opinions.

Going into this, you know this party is doomed, but what will the ending bring?

I thought this was interesting, if a little slow. I wasn’t blown away by anything, but it was a solid book. I am happy to have crossed it off my TBR list.

I seriously do not have much more to say about it, I wish it di. It was good. I could have done with a bit more of the supernatural elements, but it was fine.

My biggest take away, regardless of what was lurking in the mountains, the biggest threats came from within the traveling party itself. Proving once again, man is the most dangerous monster of all.

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Review: The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last AstronautThe Last Astronaut by David Wellington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a large alien object is identified hurtling toward Earth, seemingly under its own propulsion, NASA quickly assembles a team to try to intercept it.

The object, apparently a space ship, dubbed 2I, is unresponsive to all attempts at communication, so the experts figure, they’ll get a little closer. What could go wrong?

Sally Jansen, a former NASA astronaut, who has been living a quiet life since a failed expedition to Mars, that left a fellow astronaut dead, is called upon to lead the mission to investigate 2I.

Jansen is not necessarily eager to answer NASA’s call, but she understands this could be her only hope for salvation, so she agrees to help.

The other members selected for the mission include Parminder Rao, an astrobiologist, Sunny Stevens, an astrophysicist and Windson Hawkins, a military pilot.

Jansen is the only one among them to have old-school astronaut training and experience. She’s the glue holding the hodge-podge team together.

Jansen and her team learn that a private-sector company, KSpace, has already sent a shuttle, the Wanderer, to 2I and beat NASA to the punch. Their team has already boarded the mysterious craft, thus making the official ‘first contact’.

When the NASA team tries to contact the individuals from the Wanderer, however, no one responds. Thus, Jansen and her team board 2I to investigate.

2I is an enormous space craft. A looming hulk of unknown machinery that functions in complete and utter darkness. Their only source of light, that which they bring with them on their suits.

The truth of 2I was NOT AT ALL what I expected. It flipped my idea of what I thought this first contact would be on its head. It is so gruesome and all-encompassing, I thought there is no way any person is getting out of this alive.

Wellington did a fantastic job of creating a constant feeling of tension with this story. You were always waiting for something to pop out of the dark.

It felt terrifying, even when not a lot was happening. There’s something about the vastness, darkness, silence and isolation of being in deep space that legit freaks me the f* out. But when you add in the terror of this alien craft, it really took it to the next level.

I had a lot of fun reading this. It’s a solid Scifi Horror! I definitely recommend for people who enjoy the genre.

Well done!

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Review: Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

HorrorstörHorrorstör by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

I was so excited when my friend, Shannon, and I made a spur of the moment decision to buddy read Horrorstor!!!

I have owned a copy of this book since it was first released and have heard such great things. I would often stop, pick it up, flip through the pages and considering reading it, but for some reason never did.

I’m not sure why. The whole package of the book is unique and fun. Made to resemble an IKEA catalogue, each chapter begins with a picture of a specific furniture piece and its description.

It’s a really special book in regards to that creativity and for that reason alone, I would recommend people give it a shot to see what it’s all about.

Moving on from the engaging format, I was so pleased with the actual story!

Amy has been working at Orsk for a while, but she seems to be stuck in a rut. It’s so monotonous and honestly, it’s sucking the life out of her.

Additionally, her manager, Basil, is always after her. What’s his problem anyway? He’s such a stiff. She just needs him to let her do her thing, her way.

When mysterious things begin happening around the store, including damage to some of the product, the staff has reason to suspect someone is getting in after hours.

Basil approaches Amy and another employee, Ruth Ann, and asks them to work a dusk-til-dawn shift with him to hopefully catch the vandal.

Important people from corporate are arriving in the morning and he wants to have a handle on the issue prior to their arrival.

The two women agree and return to the store at the designated hour. Their plan, to patrol the showroom floor every hour to see if they can find anything.

On their first walk through the eerie, fun house scary showroom, with designated areas per room type, Amy and Ruth Ann stumble upon an unexpected surprise in Bedrooms.

Two fellow employees, Trinity and Matt, have snuck into the store to shoot footage for their prospective ghost hunting show.

They know of the mysterious happenings at Orsk and think supernatural forces may be at work!

The rest of the narrative follows these five employees, locked in the deserted super store for the night, as they discover the true root of the problem. And it is a serious problem.

I loved the set up for this. The brain-draining retail set-up was spectacular. I know they are not all that way, I have worked in multiple retail locations myself, but some are. The corporate speak and repetitive nature of some of the tasks, it rang real true.

I thought all of the characters were so well done. Even though they seem one dimensional to start, over the course of their time together, you learn much more about each of them. I personally began to feel quite attached.

The humor was also spot on for me. The satirical nature of the entire story, plus the witty banter between the characters, made this an absolute delight from beginning to end.

Added on to all of the great things mentioned above, the horror elements were a ton of fun. There were some yucky moments, cringe-worthy moments and creepy moments. It really offered a lot. I felt like the conclusion was a little rushed, but other than that one small thing, fantastic!

This is definitely Horror Comedy though, so if that is not your jam, you may want to steer clear.

This was my first Hendrix book and it seems like a solid place to start. I am glad to have buddy read this because it was fun to have someone to discuss it with while actually reading. I think it added to the overall experience.

I certainly will be picking up more books by Grady Hendrix in the future!

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Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

The ReturnThe Return by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. But as with many such relationships, as time goes by and circumstances change, friends can sometimes see each other less and less.

For this fabulous foursome, that is definitely the case. They all live pretty far apart geographically and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, the women are devastated to have lost one of the their own. Although they have a funeral after a significant amount of time has passed with no sign of Julie, Elise genuinely doesn’t believe she is gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she has been or what has happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. How can this be?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is just so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up like they were never apart.

The more time that goes by however, the more they begin to notice that Julie is different.

There’s something very wrong with her. It seems she is falling apart minute by minute. Her odd behavior and appearance; let’s not even get into the smell, but who’s going to talk to her about it?

They’re scared, even though mostly, they won’t admit it.

Well, I’ll tell you, they weren’t the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out. I’m talking contemplated putting it in the freezer.

There was so much to enjoy about this. I loved, loved, loved the setting. Reminiscent of a locked room mystery as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie.

I also enjoyed the dynamic among the women. I found it to be very relatable as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was unique to me. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went in.

It did give me heavy Jennifer’s Body vibes and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me it worked. That is how I would have wanted it to end.

At it’s heart, this is really a lovely examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would pretty much be this book. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.

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Review: The Moor by Sam Haysom

The MoorThe Moor by Sam Haysom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

This creepy, campy tale incorporates many things I love: chilling stories around a campfire, multiple POVs, the use of mixed media sources and a delightful, ‘is it supernatural, is it not supernatural’ feel.

Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and ended up completing it in under 24-hours.

I was drawn in right away, thanks to the lore of the Moors, and the clever use of newspaper articles of missing persons and bodies found in the area.

Haysom has definitely created a compulsively readable story here. However, as intrigued as I was, it still felt very surface level.

I wanted MORE…

All puns aside, it felt like an abridged version of what the story should have been.

With this being said, I know not everyone enjoys 500-page tomes as much as I do, so for a lot of people this book will tickle that horror spot just as they want it to. If you like creepy, outdoorsy stories you should check this one out.

This did remind me a lot of Nick Cutter’s, The Troop, mixed with a creature feature of the 1980s.

In case it’s not clear, those are both great things!

Overall, I think this is a good horror novella. I see a lot of potential in his writing and would definitely pick up more works by Sam Haysom!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Unbound Digital, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it very much.

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Review: No Exit by Taylor Adams

No ExitNo Exit by Taylor Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Darby Thorne has just received terrible news from her sister. Their mother is dying of cancer and she doesn’t have much time left.

Rushing home to Utah to be by her side, Darby encounters a blizzard in Colorado that makes all roads impassable.

Luckily, she comes across a remote rest stop that seems like a safe space to wait out the storm.

It has to be better than being trapped alone in her car for the night in freezing conditions.

Seeing other vehicles in the lot, Darby realizes she isn’t the only traveler stuck in this horrible situation. Upon entering, she finds three people inside who seem amiable enough.

Then a fourth person pops up who creeps her the f* out.

After his arrival, Darby is on edge and seemingly for good reason. As she is out in the parking lot, she notices a little girl locked in a dog cage in the back of a work van.

One of the people stuck here is a kidnapper and god knows what else!

Now Darby has to figure out how to free the girl, keep her safe and survive the night. All the while, not knowing who the predator is. So, no pressure.

This book was hella fun. Adams did a wonderful job of consistently building momentum throughout the story.

As I was reading, I found my level of anxiety getting higher, higher and higher. In a good way. The fun, edge-of-your-seat, kind of way; not the crawl under a blanket and not leave my house for a week kind of way.

When this book was released, there was quite a bit of hype surrounding it. Happy to report, that hype is legit.

Channeling strong horror movie vibes, this story will stick with me for a while. I loved the different characters and the horrific circumstances just seemed to get more and more dire as the hours at the rest stop ticked by.

Great pacing by Adams. I am really excited to see what he comes up with next. I hope he consistently stays in this thriller/horror zone. I definitely think he’s found his sweet spot!

As an aside, perfect winter read if you live in a climate where you get a lot of snow.

Blizzard coming this weekend? No problem. Just pick up No Exit and STAY AT HOME!!!

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Review: The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring

The Tenth GirlThe Tenth Girl by Sara Faring
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

**1.5-stars**

It is done and I am flipping exhausted.

I haven’t had this rough of a reading experience in a while. This one was a major struggle for me.

I did it. I made it. My sanity is basically intact and I am so happy to be moving on!!!

I could possibly provide full thoughts on this at some point, but for now, I would like to just forget the last 20-days of my life ever happened.

Final thought: Also annoyed with the fact that the final plot twist is spoiled by the naked hardback.

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Review: The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Berube

The Dark Beneath the IceThe Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Marianne’s world is falling apart. She has quit dance, which once seemed her life’s purpose, her best friend has moved away and ghosted her, her parents are separated, again, and it seems like this time it’s for good, and her mother has checked herself into a mental health facility after a breakdown.

Now staying with her Aunt, Marianne notices other things going on with herself. She is losing time and objects are moving and breaking around her, seemingly on their own.

She feels afraid, like a dark spirit is constantly around her, messing with her head and her world.

Her fear is so strong, she’s not sleeping well and soon begins to feel like she is coming apart at the seams. She seeks help from a girl at school whose mother is purported to be a psychic of some sort.

Marianne believes the presence after her is some sort of ghost and her hope is that Rhiannon’s mom will be able to get rid of it.

As Marianne and Rhiannon, who goes by Ron, begin to get to know one another, a really precious friendship forms. Both ostracized by their peers, the girls find acceptance within one another.

This friendship was one of my favorite aspects of the story, made stronger once you begin to see that the girls have developed feelings for each other deeper than friendship.

Once it is clear that’s Ron mom won’t be as much help as they would have thought, the girls strike out on their own to try to banish the spirit. Unfortunately, their actions make it worse. A lot worse.

I really enjoyed the majority of this book. At first, the writing style threw me off, but I came to really enjoy it.

It is metaphorical in nature, more so than I tend to enjoy, but very dark and beautiful.

I thought the paranormal elements were well done. The intensity kept being amped up and it truly kept me glued to the pages.

The ending made me a little uncomfortable, but I may be reading too much into it. I just wasn’t sold on the conclusion.

Anyway, overall I did really enjoy this. I had a ton of fun reading it and even had moments where I was legitimately creeped out. I think this would make a great movie.

If you enjoy movies with paranormal activity or possession, you should definitely check this one out. Bonus points if you enjoy dark, metaphorical writing.

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Review: Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Rules for VanishingRules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A haunted wood, a mysterious road that appears and disappears, the legend of a missing girl; these were the things that first attracted me to this story.

I got so much more than that, parts I am still trying to wrap my brain around.

Told through interviews, written statements and found footage, this story tells the tale of Sara, whose sister, Becca, went missing a year prior.

The mixed media pieces together her quest to find her sister and the people who go along with her.

This book reminded me a lot of Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, mixed with the Jim Henson’s The Labyrinth.

I did listen to the audiobook for this and unfortunately, I think that had an effect on my overall enjoyment.

Honestly, the audio was a little hard to track all of the characters and keep them all straight.

That paired with the dreamlike quality of all that occurs on the road, I felt confused for the majority of the middle portion of the book.

I think if I had read the physical copy it would have been easier to follow along with the character dialogue of the found footage and interviews.

Overall, I think this is a solid YA Horror novel with a very dark and spooky premise. It definitely solidified my belief that you must always beware of hitchhikers on the road.

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Review: The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

The Babysitters Coven (The Babysitters Coven, #1)The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We all know babysitting comes with a lot of responsibility. You are literally responsible for maintaining the health and wellness of little humans. But did you also know that some babysitters are responsible for protecting the entire Earth from evil forces?

It’s true and when Esme Pearl formed her Babysitter’s Club, she didn’t know that either. Unfortunately for Esme, she’s about to find out the hard way.

I feel weird sort of giving that away but it’s nothing you won’t read in the synopsis of the book. Part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part the good ole’ Babysitter’s Club series, this book brings horror comedy to a whole new level.

I was giggling to myself for over half of this novel. Apparently, the author and I share a brain and have exactly the same sense of humor.

Esme was such a fun character to read about and although parts of this were predictable, I had a great time reading it. The culminating scene does occur on Halloween as well, so perfect for the Fall Spooky season.

I loved all the pop culture references, the definite homage to Buffy and that fun teen horror atmosphere. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a fast and funny teen scream.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I look forward to seeing what this author comes up with next!!!

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